10,000 Olympic volunteers quit ahead of Games: organizers

A man walks past a countdown board for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo on June 3, 2021, 50 days before the opening ceremony. (AFP / Kazuhiro Nogi)
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A man walks past a countdown board for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo on June 3, 2021, 50 days before the opening ceremony. (AFP / Kazuhiro Nogi)
A banner of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Games is displayed on a street in Tokyo on May 31, 2021. (AFP / Kazuhiro Nogi)
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A banner of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Games is displayed on a street in Tokyo on May 31, 2021. (AFP / Kazuhiro Nogi)
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Updated 03 June 2021

10,000 Olympic volunteers quit ahead of Games: organizers

10,000 Olympic volunteers quit ahead of Games: organizers
  • Japan is battling a fourth wave of coronavirus infections, with Tokyo and several other parts of the country under a state of emergency
  • Tokyo 2020 chief Seiko Hashimoto, nonetheless, ruled out a further postponement of the Games,

TOKYO: Around 10,000 of 80,000 planned Tokyo 2020 Olympic volunteers have quit, organizers have revealed as they battle persistent doubts over the Games with just 50 days until the opening ceremony.
Tokyo 2020 chief Seiko Hashimoto ruled out a further postponement of the Games, speaking to a Japan sports paper, and said cancelation would only happen in catastrophic circumstance such as most delegations not being able to come to Japan.
Organizers will later Thursday mark 50 days to go when they unveil details about the medal ceremonies, in the latest attempt to build public enthusiasm despite polls showing most people in Japan want the Games delayed or canceled.
Japan is battling a fourth wave of coronavirus infections, with Tokyo and several other parts of the country under a state of emergency due to last until a month before the Games.
On Wednesday night, Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto told local media that around 10,000 volunteers — who are vital to the smooth running of the massive event — have quit, largely over coronavirus concerns.
Others dropped out after the Games were postponed by a year, or in protest over sexist remarks made by Hashimoto’s predecessor who was forced to resign.
Some of the volunteers are likely also to be among the approximately 80 percent of people in Japan who oppose hosting the Games this year, according to opinion polls.
But surveys among the population of Tokyo have found a more even split between those in favor and opposed to holding the Games.
Muto said the reduction in volunteers would not affect the running of the Games because the event has been scaled back, so fewer people are needed.

Overseas fans have already been barred from attending, and a decision on whether to allow domestic spectators is expected later this month after the state of emergency in Tokyo ends on June 20.
The number of overseas officials and participants coming for the Games has been cut by about half, to around 78,000, with calls for further reductions.
Hashimoto reiterated that the Games are on and will be safe for participants and the Japanese public in an interview published Thursday, saying cancelation was virtually inconceivable.
“If various countries around the world experience very serious situations, and delegations from most countries can’t come, then we wouldn’t be able to hold it,” she told the Nikkan Sports daily.
“But conversely, unless such a situation emerges, the Games will not be canceled.”
Australia’s softball team earlier this week became the first Olympic athletes to arrive in Japan for the Olympics, a major step forward.
Hashimoto said she believed the tide of public opinion could be turning as Japan’s initially slow vaccine campaign begins to speed up.
“We are hearing more and more voices from people saying ‘if this is the case, the Olympics may be able to take place’,” she said.
Japan has seen a smaller Covid-19 outbreak than many countries, with just over 13,000 deaths. Around 2.9 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated.


Maguire ready to return for England’s Czech showdown

Maguire ready to return for England’s Czech showdown
Updated 25 min 51 sec ago

Maguire ready to return for England’s Czech showdown

Maguire ready to return for England’s Czech showdown
  • Manchester United defender Harry Maguire didn’t play in England's first two matches
  • "Obviously with the ankle injury, it's getting stronger, I'm getting more confident," said Maguire

LONDON: Harry Maguire says he is fit to feature for England in their decisive Euro 2020 Group D clash against the Czech Republic on Tuesday.
Manchester United defender Maguire did not play in England’s first two matches against Croatia and Scotland as he recovers from ankle ligament damage sustained against Aston Villa in May.
England manager Gareth Southgate included the center-back in his Euro squad in the belief he would be back in time to play some part in the tournament.
Maguire was on the bench for Friday’s 0-0 draw against Scotland and now he is ready to return to action for the Czech showdown at Wembley.
“I’m feeling good. Obviously with the ankle injury, it’s getting stronger, I’m getting more confident,” Maguire told The Lions’ Den.
“The more sessions I do, the more games I play, I’m sure I’ll get more confidence and that’s the thing with these type of injuries.
“I think it’s just about building the confidence. It’s all stable now and I’m available and I’m ready to go.”
England will finish top of Group D if they beat the Czechs and Maguire urged his side to get back on track after the drab Scotland stalemate.
“The boys have put ourselves in a great position in the group — four points from two games — although obviously we want to win every football match so we’d like to be on six,” he said.
“But it’s still in a strong position and now it’s another big game against the Czechs and one we’re looking forward to and we go there and try and get three points.”


Saudi Arabia entices investors to rapidly growing sports economy

The Ministry of Sport has today launched NAFES, a new online licensing platform designed to encourage foreign investment and collaboration in the Kingdom, one of the world’s rapidly growing sports markets. (Supplied)
The Ministry of Sport has today launched NAFES, a new online licensing platform designed to encourage foreign investment and collaboration in the Kingdom, one of the world’s rapidly growing sports markets. (Supplied)
Updated 21 June 2021

Saudi Arabia entices investors to rapidly growing sports economy

The Ministry of Sport has today launched NAFES, a new online licensing platform designed to encourage foreign investment and collaboration in the Kingdom, one of the world’s rapidly growing sports markets. (Supplied)
  • ‘NAFES’ launched to encourage investment and ownership in sports clubs, academies and centers

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is inviting global investors to take full ownership of clubs, academies and centers across 27 of its most popular sports. 

The Ministry of Sport has today launched NAFES, a new online licensing platform designed to encourage foreign investment and collaboration in the Kingdom, one of the world’s rapidly growing sports markets.

“We are inviting the world to partner with us on our journey of sporting transformation. Our country’s incredible passion for sport is well known and, as more get active and take up sport, the economic opportunity is exciting,” said Sports Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal.

He added: “Sport is an integral component of our Kingdom’s transformative Vision 2030, and we would not have achieved these massive strides if it were not for the unconditional support by our Kingdom’s leadership led by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and the Crown Prince Prince Mohammed bin Salman.”

NAFES will attract private investment to help increase the number of clubs, academies and centers across sport and to boost competition among athletes. 

The Saudi sports economy has grown 174 percent in the last three years and its contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) has increased by 22 percent.

“NAFES is our invitation to overseas partners to drive our sporting investment to the next level and to collaborate across our sports clubs, academies and centers,” Prince Abdulaziz said, adding: “It is a turning point for the Kingdom’s sports sector. Our message to investors and the private sector both in Saudi Arabia and across the globe is direct and clear, establish your clubs, compete and draw the future path of Saudi sports investment.”

The launch of NAFES falls under Saudi Arabia’s “Quality of Life” sports program, which is part of the country’s Vision 2030 reform plans. 

It has already launched partnerships with some of the world’s biggest sports events and governing bodies.

The investments have resulted in a 37 percent growth in Saudis participating in weekly sport activities between 2015 and 2019, alongside a 149 percent increase in women and girls exercising during the same time period. During the coronavirus pandemic, over four million enjoyed home fitness classes as part of the “Baytak Nadeek” initiative by the Saudi Sports For All Federation.

Saudi Arabia has hosted around 50 international events in the last three years. These have included events in international football, the PGA European Tour golf, WWE, tennis and boxing. The country’s motorsport calendar features the Dakar Rally, Formula E, Extreme E and from December, the first ever Saudi Arabian Formula 1 Grand Prix.

Historically, the Saudi sports industry was wholly reliant on government funding. But following this policy change, the government is aiming to accelerate the growth of the sports industry by increasing the role of the private sector.

NAFES will also aim to raise the percentage share of the sports industry’s contribution towards the Kingdom’s GDP, in addition to increasing and diversifying local and foreign investment opportunities, and ultimately raising the number of competitive clubs across a wide range of sports.

“This was an organic development that falls in line with our efforts to position Saudi at the forefront of the sporting world globally and that is a crucial part in Saudi Vision 2030,” Prince Abdulaziz said. “As our sporting ambitions continue, we seek to collaborate with partners and strike a healthy balance between public and private sector investment.” 

The sports being offered for ownership via NAFES include football, basketball, swimming, equestrian, tennis, electronic sports, gymnastics, cycling and combat sports. 

Investors are urged to visit this website for more information on all the required steps to apply for their license.


Injured Hummels, Mueller, Gundogan miss Germany training

Injured Hummels, Mueller, Gundogan miss Germany training
Updated 21 June 2021

Injured Hummels, Mueller, Gundogan miss Germany training

Injured Hummels, Mueller, Gundogan miss Germany training
  • Trio started Saturday's 4-2 win over Portugal which put the Mannschaft's European Championship campaign back on track
  • Hummels and Mueller are both resting knee injuries, while Gundogan took a blow to the calf

HERZOGENAURACH/GERMANY: Mats Hummels, Thomas Mueller and Ilkay Gundogan missed Germany training on Monday with injury knocks, two days before their crunch match against Hungary at Euro 2020.
The trio all started Saturday’s 4-2 win over Portugal which put the Mannschaft’s European Championship campaign back on track, but Hummels and Mueller are both resting knee injuries, while Gundogan took a blow to the calf.
German daily Bild claim Mueller will miss the Hungary game on Wednesday, but a DFB spokesman denied the report and insisted it was too early to say.
Replacement right-back Lukas Klostermann, who has yet to play a minute of Euro 2020, also sat out Monday’s session at Germany’s camp in Bavaria with a hamstring strain.
The German Football Association (DFB) has not said whether Mueller, Gundogan or Hummels will be fit to start their final Group F match against Hungary in Munich.
Germany, who are second in the group, need a win to be sure of reaching last 16, but a draw could be enough if France do not lose to Portugal in Budapest on Wednesday.
Hungary, who are bottom of the table with a point after Saturday’s 1-1 draw with France, must win to avoid elimination.


Tickets for Abu Dhabi Grand Prix go on sale as Yas Marina Circuit welcomes Formula One fans back

Tickets for Abu Dhabi Grand Prix go on sale as Yas Marina Circuit welcomes Formula One fans back
Updated 21 June 2021

Tickets for Abu Dhabi Grand Prix go on sale as Yas Marina Circuit welcomes Formula One fans back

Tickets for Abu Dhabi Grand Prix go on sale as Yas Marina Circuit welcomes Formula One fans back
  • About 16,000 seats will be available for race weekend, which will take place from December 9-12 and see the return of the Yasalam after-race concerts

Tickets for the Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix have gone on sale to the public as Yas Marina Circuit looks set to welcome motorsports fans back for the first time since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the 2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the only fans in attendance were 600 Frontline Heroes who were invited to enjoy the complete Yas Island experience in recognition of their efforts during the pandemic.

After hosting several international sporting events with live audiences this year, the UAE capital is offering a limited number of tickets for race weekend on Dec. 9-12.

“We are absolutely thrilled to announce tickets are now on sale for the Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2021 as we look to welcome fans back to Yas Marina Circuit for a fantastic weekend of sport and entertainment,” said Saif Al-Noaimi, the acting CEO of Abu Dhabi Motorsports Management.

“Obviously there are capacity limits due to the current guidelines that have been published in Abu Dhabi,” he said. “We are operating at a capacity of 30 percent, so tickets are going to be limited. We urge people to go and purchase tickets as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.”

This means that more than 16,000 seats will available at Yas Marina Circuit.

“Naturally, spectators play a huge role in creating the special atmosphere we have come to associate with the event, and we are delighted they will be in attendance once again, giving them an opportunity to watch some of Formula One’s biggest stars go head-to-head out on the track,” Al-Noaimi added.

Fans attending this year’s event can look forward to the return of the traditional Yasalam after-race concerts, produced by Flash Entertainment, with four AAA artists, who will be announced in due course, performing each night over the course of race weekend.

The on-track action will be enhanced by changes to the track, with the aim of increasing competition at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and all other motorsport events at the venue. The changes will be implemented over the summer to increase the potential for overtaking and improve the overall visual spectacle.

“Over the coming months we will continue to work alongside Formula One and all key stakeholders to ensure the relevant safety procedures are implemented to guarantee the safety of everybody present, as we have done for all events hosted at Yas Marina Circuit since the outbreak of COVID-19,” said Al-Noaimi.

In compliance with government directives, new measures are in place for this year’s event, including designated Oasis areas, an enhanced food and beverage service where orders can be delivered directly to tables and a Track Walk, which will replace Thursday’s Pit Lane Walk.

Regular seats are available on Abu Dhabi Hill and in the main grandstand, and tickets will provide access to food and beverage outlets, live DJ sets and the Yasalam after-race concerts at Etihad Park. Due to safety considerations this year, all ticket holders will be able to attend only one of the concerts over the weekend.

“What is extra special is that artists are so enthused about performing as part of Yasalam. They have seen Abu Dhabi’s coordinated response to COVID-19 and see race weekend as a great way to re-engage with their followers, live, in person, in a safe environment,” said John Lickrish, CEO of Flash Entertainment.

“There is huge appetite from fans of live events to feel that thrill again. Nothing comes close. Watch this space for some exciting announcements in the coming months as we continue working with Abu Dhabi Motorsport Management, Formula One, and all stakeholders to deliver another truly memorable, safe, sports and entertainment experience.”

Hospitality package options include Yas Suites, Marina Views Suite, Champions Club, Shams Suite and the Paddock Club. Tickets will be issued closer to the event.

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will also celebrate the UAE’s 50th anniversary through a series of events in the various entertainment zones and the Heritage Village.

Strict precautionary measures will be in operation at Yas Marina Circuit for this year’s event.

UAE residents attending must have received two doses of a UAE-approved COVID-19 vaccine, as well as providing a negative PCR test result. Non-UAE residents will also need to provide authorised documentation and evidence of vaccination, along with a negative PCR test result.

Other precautionary measures include temperature checking, venue sanitization and social distancing, and there will be a first aid and COVID-19 testing point on site, which will include a dedicated quarantine room for suspected cases. Children under the age of 12 will not be permitted to attend the event.

Tickets can be purchased via www.yasmarinacircuit.com


Leonardo Jardim to run rule over Al-Hilal squad before setting out recruitment strategy

Leonardo Jardim to run rule over Al-Hilal squad before setting out recruitment strategy
Updated 21 June 2021

Leonardo Jardim to run rule over Al-Hilal squad before setting out recruitment strategy

Leonardo Jardim to run rule over Al-Hilal squad before setting out recruitment strategy
  • Saudi champions’ new Portuguese coach will land in Riyadh in 10 days’ time before officially taking over his duties

Saudi Pro League champions Al-Hilal announced that new Portuguese coach Leonardo Jardim has postponed any contract negotiations and signings until he has completed studying the players currently at the club, Arabic sports daily Arriyadiyah has reported.

Sources at the club said the former Monaco coach will present the board with an extensively researched technical report highlighting the squad’s technical needs and the players — foreign and local — who can satisfy those criteria.

Jardim is set to arrive in Riyadh in 10 days’ time to officially assume his duties. Among his first tasks will be securing his new residence, visiting the club’s headquarters, and finalizing the first team’s preparations for the 2021-22 season.

On June 1, the 46-year-old was offered a one-year contract by the Riyadh club, with the option of an extension for a further 12 months. He had been out of football since leaving Monaco in December 2019.

After stints in charge of Braga, Olympiacos and Sporting Lisbon, he was appointed to take over at Monaco in the summer of 2014, with the club a shadow of the one that had won the French league in 2000 and reached the final of the UEFA Champions League four years later.

In 2016-17, he led Monaco to the Ligue 1 championship as well as the semi-finals of the Champions League.

On his arrival in Saudi Arabia, Jardim is set to hold several meetings with Al-Hilal’s management as he wants to ensure all preparations are scheduled ahead of the players’ return to training on July 5.